You had choices Thursday when it came to what deserved your attention. Remember: Barring significant scientific advances over the next several decades, your time is limited. As such, you should accord it (the time you have left, I mean) the utmost respect. With that in mind, you could have spent the day reading about the crisis in Texas and pondering the possible ramifications for the future of US energy policy and, secondarily, the future of the Republican party in the state. That would have
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11 thoughts on “Martians

  1. I think it might have been Toby Ord, or an intellect along his lines, I can’t remember, and I apologize for this, especially because of a possible mis-attribution, that said we can still call ourselves a civilization if we can launch satellites off our rock and explore faraway places. (Maybe it was Tainter…I really should check and get this straight.)

    The landing on Mars is a reminder just how satisfying it is when we are able to organize ourselves in a manner which works toward a goal worth achieving. Interestingly, organizing ourselves with the goal of tearing down and destroying perhaps the best form of human, political organization yet created is what some might call the opposite of civilization, an apostasy of civilization. The latter is actively underway and will, seemingly, given enough time, undermine the former.

    As for those, not included on this site, but perhaps in the comment sections of numerous sites today, who say we have problems on Earth and shouldn’t waste resources on space exploration (thinking about it and getting there), wasn’t it back in the the 16th century that this argument was put to rest?

    1. We have problems on Earth and shouldn’t waste resources on space exploration. No, this argument was not put to rest. Investigating space to understand the cosmos is fine. Near-earth satellites that enhance life on earth are fine. We can even explore Mars to understand the evolution of life in a hundred years or so when we have things going right here on Earth. The problem is that we have billionaires Bezos and Musk who are sucking up huge amounts of capital and resources and deploying it towards the goal of colonizing Mars and building space stations. And influencing politicians to put public resources towards Martian exploration. Aside from the obvious huge devotion of resources towards a goal that doesn’t actually help solve any concrete problems, it is symbolic of the idea of giving up on Earth as a habitable planet. It is inherently elitist, because not everybody is going to get a first class ticket on Elon’s little rocket to Mars (imaginary or otherwise). It gives people a false idol to worship as they continue to debase the only planet that can support life in any meaningful way that is within reach of our species.

      1. I don’t think you can blame Bezos or Musk. You look at Murdoch, you look at the Koch Brothers, at Fox, at Sinclair News Group, at Newsmax, at the success of the prosperity gospel churches/scams and the modern GOP and you say… “f*k this, I need to get out as fast as possible”.

        Having 200B isn’t enough to combat that much stupidity, greed, slavish slobbering imbecility. As the poet says, “They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo!”

        We can all think of a better world. But we cannot coordinate for it. Hence we wail in filth and those who can dream of escaping to a virgin Mars.

        But have no fear. In time, we’ll ruin that as well.

        Unless AGI gets real and we all become Lords of the End Times (as seen by Simak in City. Or the Culture by Ian Banks).

  2. Here is my nefarious concern:

    I think that in the future, due to continuing automation (checkout, inventory, shift from physical store to online, etc.), Walmart will need a smaller number of employees who earn more per hour vs. the present headcount and average pay.

    For example, I ordered an Egg McMuffin about 18 months ago in France. I ordered and paid at a kiosk, printed my receipt with a pickup number and collected my Egg McMuffin when my number was called.
    The entire restaurant, which was busy, only had about 4 employees. I remember thinking that when this model hits the US- what are all the unskilled workers going to do?

  3. “Some economists believe that depression associated with losing jobs in higher paid occupations and being forced into menial work has contributed to rising mortality rates among disaffected white Americans, the same demographic that comprised Donald Trump’s base. ”

    Some of Trump’s supporters are dying, sure. But not like Blacks and Hispanics:

    “Life expectancy in the United States dropped a staggering one year during the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused its first wave of deaths, health officials are reporting.

    Minorities suffered the biggest impact, with Black Americans losing nearly three years and Hispanics, nearly two years, according to preliminary estimates Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Associated Press, 2/18/2021

    1. You’re referencing the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on minorities, which is tragic. I’m talking about the dynamics associated with the spread of opioids and alcoholism among a specific demographic for very specific reasons over a specific, pre-pandemic timeframe with specific political ramifications. Specifically, I’m talking about this book, which is worth a read —->

  4. Mars exploration:

    “I read the news today, oh boy,
    Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
    And though the holes were rather small
    They had to count them all
    Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
    I’d love to turn you on…”

    (“A Day in the Life” by the Beatles)

  5. On space exploration, let us not forget that most of the major technological achievements we’ve made the past 60 years were a result of the work our science community did to get humans and/or equipment places in space. Regardless if we actually find signs of life on Mars, there is no doubt that project will teach our civilization (those that are paying attention anyway) something. It’s also important to remember that looking beyond our own homes, towns, counties, states, countries, continents, and even worlds; gives us the perspective that there is so much more to everything than we can even see. Our minute problems don’t even exist beyond the smallness of our world, so maybe we should just chill a bit on the drama?

    Walmart 15.00 minimum wages, see Seattle. When Seattle announced it was going to raise its minimum wage to 12.00 an hours people went ballistic about how it was going to wreck their economy. It didn’t wreck their economy, it in fact, grew their economy. People were happier, able to work less and spend more, which led to more job growth and more businesses. MIT has the current living wage in the US at 16.54 per hours. So 15 doesn’t even meet the standard of a living wage. If you’re a single mother trying to “work hard” to take care of your family, should you have to earn less than a living wage to do that? Let’s exercise some humanity and stop worrying about how to make C-suite execs richer while blaming marginalized and poor people for wanting to earn a living wage.

    The GME hearings, why pay attention? SEC already telegraphed their plans to us. Let’s attack the little guys who can’t afford high priced attorneys. We’ve seen this movie before, it was during the great recession. One guy went to jail for the collaborative effort to grow incredibly wealthy off of packaging shit debt together and calling it AAA. That led to half of the country’s wealth being shed, joblessness, tent cities, and Wall Street execs getting bonuses because “we have to retain talent” scoff. Watching any of that is an exercise in rage bating. We know who we are as a nation, and it’s not the underdog story. It’s the beat down the underdog so I can get re-elected story.

  6. As a young graduate student I thought the burgeoning space race was a complete waste of money. Then we got to the moon, something my wife and I stayed up late to watch on television. As Walter Cronkite “covered” the event and described what was going on I confess that I was overpowered by it all and my wife and I both wept quietly at the power of the moment. Upon reflection, it was not the accomplishment of reaching the moon that was so important but what we had to force ourselves to learn and do to make it happen. The scientific outcomes that were most important were the applications of all the required science that have made our lives what they are today. It is clear to me that it is not feasable to colonize Mars. We can’t afford it and that planet is no longer sufficiently hospitable. But if Musk and Bexos want to spend some of their treasure on the effort, so be it. To paraphrase, “It’s their money, let them use it when they need/want to.” It’s hard to begrudge them their fun. We (investors) gave them this money, after all. However long they have it they can spend it, as long as they share the technology and the discoveries I couldn’t care less. As an aside, I wonder how genius Musk feels about his all in move to Texas. Just sayin’

  7. If we don’t somehow figure out how to keep this wondrous orb we call home livable it won’t make any difference how amazing the space exploration discoveries are that will occur in the next hundred years. It will all be for naught. Think of the children.

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